The Path to Thought Leadership

By Karen Donaway, SKC & Co. CPAs, LLC – August 1, 2019
The Path to Thought Leadership

Thought leadership. Personal branding. Content marketing. If you think these terms don’t apply to you…think again! It is more important than ever to become engaged in the branding and marketing process — not only for your business, but for YOU personally. If you are interested in professional growth opportunities in your company or potentially growing your business, you must stand out from others in your industry. Becoming a thought leader takes con­scious effort and a true understanding of how you are perceived by prospective clients, strategic partners and others in your field. Although this may seem a bit overwhelming, the steps to thought leadership are very straightforward: Create your personal brand, identify your unique and innovative thoughts, and create engaging content to be generously shared with your audience. 

Personal Brand

Believe it or not, you’ve been working on this your entire career. Your personal brand is YOU. It is your story, your energy, how you define yourself and how others see you. It is the content you create, the relationships you develop and the expertise you are known for. Being confident in yourself and in your personal and profes­sional story is a great starting point.

An interesting exercise to do with a networking group or peer group is to ask the people in the room to describe your personal brand. If they struggle to come up with the words, or describe your brand in a way that does not resonate with you, then you know you are not clearly articulating your story. Ask for feedback and learn from other people who are precise with conveying their brand.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is recognizing that you have unique and specific ideas and the ability to share them with others. Take a moment to think of a time that you shared an idea with someone and they responded “Wow! I’ve never thought of it that way before” or “Thanks for sharing that, I can’t wait to try it.” You have experienced thought leadership!

Recognize that you have unique ideas and approaches that differentiate you from others in your industry. Your innovative ideas can potentially change the way someone else is doing things. You can make a positive impact on other people by sharing your thoughts and experiences with them. Spend some time thinking about ideas you implemented that brought about positive change in your company or organization. Or, perhaps you helped a client make a sig­nificant change. Get in touch with your creative, innovative self. This is the beginning of your thought leadership content.

Content Marketing

Now that you have successfully established your personal brand and have identified your unique and innovative ideas, it is time to create shareable content. Your thought leadership success will largely depend on your ability to communicate your ideas to your target audience. Invest time in identifying your audience. Who are they? What are their pain points and issues? Use your person­al brand to communicate with them in a thoughtful, genuine way that they can easily relate to.

Make it easy for your information to be shared. The more engaged your audience is the more credibility you have. Using social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook is an efficient and effective way to build your audience. However, branching out beyond social media is essential to your thought leadership success. Consider doing a presentation for a like-minded organization. Sponsor events where you have an opportunity to speak to the group. Create a podcast that can be broadcast through a professional organization. Con­tribute to a professional publication — or write a book! Be creative and think outside the social media box. Never underestimate the power of in-person communicating.

Thought leadership can be a powerful component of your overall marketing strategy. There is a big difference between being an “expert” and being a recognized industry leader who effectively shares their thoughts and ideas to facilitate positive change. All of your personal and professional experiences have led you to your present position. Be proud of your personal brand and your unique ideas! Find your voice and share it with your au­dience. In the process you will organically create brand awareness. And, you can add “thought leader” to your growing list of credentials. 

Karen Donaway

Karen Donaway is the director of marketing at SKC & Co. CPAs, LLC and can be reached at

This article appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.